Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

More on John Ffinch, A Witness to the Signing of Thomas Pell's June 27, 1654 "Indian Deed"


On June 27, 1654, Thomas Pell signed a so-called "Indian Deed" with local Native Americans acquiring the lands that became Pelham and surrounding areas. A copy of that deed, said to be in Thomas Pell's handwriting, exists. It is among the Pell family papers maintained by the Fort Ticonderoga Museum. That document offers some of the best evidence we have of those who knew Thomas Pell. 

I long have been researching the lives of those Englishmen who signed the Pell deed and agreement on June 27, 1654 as witnesses. An image of that agreement and a transcription of its text is available on the archive of the Historic Pelham Web site by clicking here

Among those whose signatures or marks appear on the document as witnesses are "Richard Crabb", "Henry Accorly", "John Ffinch", "William Newman" and others. Inquiry into the backgrounds of these men has shed additional light on Thomas Pell and his purchase. 

Periodically I have published on the Historic Pelham Blog a little of the massive amount of information I have assembled about these various Englishmen of the 17th century. For examples, see, e.g.:

Thu., Aug. 09, 2007:  Information About John Ffinch: A Witness to the Signing of Thomas Pell's "Indian Deed" with Local Native Americans on June 27, 1654.

Friday, November 03, 2006: More About Richard Crabb, the "Magistrate" Who Witnessed the Signing of Thomas Pell's "Indian Deed" with Local Native Americans on June 27, 1654

Friday, September 22, 2006: Henry Accorly: A Witness to the Signing of Thomas Pell's "Indian Deed" with Local Native Americans on June 27, 1654

Friday, September 15, 2006: William Newman: A Witness to the Signing of Thomas Pell's "Indian Deed" with Local Native Americans on June 27, 1654

Thursday, May 18, 2006: Richard Crabb, the "Magistrate" Who Witnessed the Signing of Thomas Pell's "Indian Deed" with Local Native Americans on June 27, 1654

In 2009, I also published an article in The Bronx Historical Society Journal about the Englishmen who signed Pell's so-called "Indian Deed."  See Bell, Blake A., The New Englanders Who Signed Thomas Pell's 1654 Agreement Acquiring Much of Today's Bronx and Lower Westchester Counties From Native Americans, The Bronx County Historical Society Journal, Vol. XLVI, Nos. 1 & 2, pp. 25-49 (Spring / Fall, 2009).


Image of the Handwritten Copy of Pell's So-Called "Indian Deed"
Signed on June 27, 1654.  This Deed is the Original Deed in the
Chain of Title for Every Home in Today's Town of Pelham. For a
Transcription of the Text Prepared by This Author, click here
and Scroll Down.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog article adds to this research by providing a previously unnoticed reference to John Ffinch (i.e., Finch), one of the men who signed the Pell deed.

John Finch was among the seven hundred or so English Puritans led by John Winthrop who migrated from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the eleven ships that formed the “Winthrop Fleet of 1630”. 

During the 1630s and early 1640s, Finch could be found in the Boston, Cambridge and nearby Watertown areas of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay.  In the early 1640s he moved to Stamford. He seems to have followed Daniel Finch, who may have been his brother.  In any event, John was in Stamford by October, 1642 when he received a land grant.

In Stamford, Finch met three of the four men with whom he eventually signed Thomas Pell’s deed: Henry Ackerly (referenced on Pell’s deed as “Henry Accorly”), Richard Crabb, and William Newman.  In those years, New Haven’s rule over settlements including Stamford and Greenwich was a constant source of irritation for local settlers. In 1644, a considerable part of the group that had relocated from Wethersfield to Stamford fled to Long Island preferring to live under the Dutch than to “remain under the oppressive jurisdiction with which they had now become thoroughly acquainted, and as thoroughly dissatisfied.” John Finch, Richard Crabb, Henry Ackerly and William Newman were among those who remained. 

Things did not improve for those who remained, however. Finally, in 1653, Stamford residents delivered a formal complaint to New Haven authorities regarding taxes, voting rights and “various other obnoxious measures”.  New Haven authorities attended a town meeting and found Stamford residents “full of discontent with the present government they are under”.  

New Haven authorities concluded that at least one of the Finch men – perhaps John Finch – had whipped up ill sentiment in Stamford toward the Colony of New Haven.  At about this time, John Finch sold his house and lot in Stamford, although he seems to have remained in the area for a time. 

Interestingly, another of those who later signed Pell’s deed as a witness – William Newman – was also accused at this time by the New Haven authorities of being “one of the disturbers of ye peace of Stamford, in pleading for such libertie in votes as would overthrow the foundations of goverment [sic] here laid”.  

Finch may have had a strong motive to assist Pell in Pell's purchase of lands from Native Americans.  Finch may have sought to arrange a settlement for his son, also named John, on a portion of those lands. 

Within months of his acquisition, Pell made some land available to English settlers who planted a settlement far west of the boundary established by the 1650 Treaty of Hartford. They settled at the mouth of today’s Westchester Creek in the Bronx. The Dutch called the settlement “Oostdorp”. The English initially called the settlement “Westchester.”  

The enormity of Pell’s move was not lost on the Dutch. They soon invaded the settlement and removed some settlers to a prison ship. They released the settlers shortly, but forced them to pledge allegiance to the Dutch to remain in the settlement. 

During some of these events, a “John Finch” was an inhabitant of “Oostdorp”. For example, an “Oath Written and Signed by the Inhabitants of Oostdorp” on January 1, 1657 affirming the settlers’ allegiance to the Dutch after the Dutch invaded the settlement is signed by, among others, “John Finch”. Admittedly, the records do not explicitly indicate whether this was “John Finch” senior or junior. Yet, careful consideration suggests that it was the son who settled in Oostdorp.  The father seems to have remained in the Stamford area. 

According to some authorities, John Finch, Sr. died in Stamford on September 5, 1657.  The inventory of his estate was recorded in Book 1, page 66 of the Stamford records bearing the date of 9th of 12th mo., 1658 so he certainly died before that date.

Recent research has revealed an additional 17th century document referencing what appears to be John Ffinch, Jr. (the son of the John Finch who signed the Pell deed) living in the tiny settlement of Oostdorp, so renamed by the Dutch after they invaded the settlement previously known as Westchester.

The two-page document is a petition copied into Dutch Council Minutes reflecting that the original was signed by seven residents of the settlement of Westchester and submitted to Dutch authorities on March 13, 1656.  The transcription of the document by Dr. Charles T. Gehring shows that one of the petitioners was "John Finth," almost certainly John Finch, Jr. who lived in the settlement at the time.  The document is a petition presenting the names of six of the settlement's earliest and most important settlers from which the Dutch were to select those whom they would allow to serve as local government officials.  An image of the petition copied into the Dutch Council minutes appears immediately below, followed by Dr. Gehring's transcription of the same.


March 13, 1656 "Letter from Robert Bassitt and others to director
and council", Page 01 of 02.  Source:  "Letter from Robert Bassitt
and others to director and council", New York State Archives, (visited
Apr. 22, 2018).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.  Transcription
Appears Below.


March 13, 1656 "Letter from Robert Bassitt and others to director
and council", Page 01 of 02.  Source:  "Letter from Robert Bassitt
and others to director and council", New York State Archives, (visited
Apr. 22, 2018).  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.  Transcription
Appears Below.

"[6:341b] 

[NOMINATION OF OFFICIALS AT WESTCHESTER] 

Westchester, March 13th, 1656 

Honoured Sir 

The inhabitans of Westchester haveing taken into consideration the nesessite of haveing offisors established amonghst our selves in this Towne for the executing of such Lords in the Towne may conduce to the good of our towne shippe therefore this may signifie to your honour that the Towne have presented unto your honour these sixe, Leftenant Thomas Wheeler: Thomas Neuman: John Lord: Josiah Gilbert: William Ward: Nicklis Bay ley: that soe you may be pleased to confirme and establish offisires amonghst us for this yeare next insending the date hereof further the towne have chosen and deputed as debutyes in theyre Behalfe the afore said full confirmation from your honnour how fare our bounds shall extend and Reach. 

The underwritten in the behalfe of our selves and the rest of the town 

Robert Bassit 
Robert Rosse 
John Fenner 
William Bensill 
John Finth 
Joseph Lanckton 
John Richardsone"

Source:  Gehring, Charles T., Trans. & Ed., Council Minutes 1655-1656, p. 281 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995).

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